A spy and his new partner take on a mysterious Chinese organisation known as ‘The Dragons’, who plan to blow up Los Angeles with a Hydrogen Bomb. Can the agents of Espionage, Inc. stop them or will they spend all their time eating steak in Chinese restaurants and talking in elevators?
The names of screenwriter Arthur C. Pierce and director Franklin Adreon are not ones to inspire a great deal of confidence in this science fiction spy thriller from the mid-1960s. Pierce had penned a string of unremarkable programmers with genre accessories: ‘Destination Inner Space’ (1966) (undersea monsters), ‘The Destructors’ (1968) (special rubies power a secret ray gun), ‘The Navy Vs. The Monsters’ (1966) (plant monsters), and several other low-budget entries, none of which offer anything more than predictable plot development and general mediocrity. Pierce had worked with director Adreon before on what was probably the best of his scripts; the Michael Rennie vehicle ‘Cyborg 2087′ (1966), but it was still little more than an adequate time passer. Adreon was a veteran of movie serials, starting out as a screenwriter himself before graduating to the director’s chair. His contributions in that role had included many TV episodes, and a lot of Westerns. His two science fiction collaborations with Pierce were to prove the last work of his long career.
Meet Jeffrey Hunter; heart-throb young stage actor who made a name for himself in pictures opposite John Wayne in John Ford’s classic ‘The Searchers’ (1956). He graduated from there to playing Jesus Christ in big studio production ‘King of Kings’ (1961), but his star was on the wane by the time he appeared here. Of course, these days he’s best known for something that wasn’t even shown at the times it was made. As Captain Christopher Pike, he was the first man to take command of the Starship Enterprise in the unscreened pilot of a little science fiction number called ‘Star Trek’.
Here, Hunter’s the usual ‘James Bond on a budget’ with an eye for the ladies and his fists at the ready. After all, this sinister spy network from the Far East are planning to do something rather naughty on friendly shores and it’s up to Hunter to stop them. Unfortunately, this time he’s been saddled with a sidekick in the rather lovely form of Hong Kong agent France Nuyen. ‘But I always work alone!’ he protests to suit and tie Donald Woods while the audience desperately struggles to stay awake.
But wait! What’s this? The good guys have got something extra special up their sleeves (or around their waists really). Yes, time travel belts! Hunter and Nuyen can pop around in time and save the day! But the potential for excitement or any significant level of interest remains sadly unrealised, as Hunter gives Nuyen a little lecture about the possibility of changing the future, and they only use the belts a couple of times. What we get instead is a series of dull face-offs in offices and nightclubs involving some severely under-rehearsed wrestling matches, lame fisticuffs, and a little bit of tepid gunplay. lt’s all very cheap, very dull, and totally lifeless. The climax is wonderful though, as a random bit part player gets fed up with being part of the furniture and decides to take a hand! Who is she? Search me. Why does she do it? Perhaps she’s bored, and wants to get it all other with. Understandable really.
The only bright spark here is the performance of Nuyen, who gives her character a pleasingly laconic delivery, and livens up the terminally dull dialogue with a touch of sarcasm. Hunter is as generic a hero as they come, and Harold ‘Oddjob’ Sakata fails to register as main bad guy Big Buddha. Apparently, all his lines were dubbed in by another actor. With the exception of Nuyen, everyone here is strictly on autopilot.
Hunter made a few more films and TV shows before his untimely death in 1969 from a combination of a stroke and the resulting fall. Sakata went on to an undistinguished career playing the heavy in a series of low-budget exploitation movies. Nuyen deservedly fared a little better; her long career taking in featured roles in films such as ‘Battle for the Planet of the Apes’ (1972) and ‘The Joy Luck Club’ (1993), as well as a recurring role on TV’s ‘St. Elsewhere’ in the 1980s, and, somewhat ironically, a guest slot on ‘Star Trek.’
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this film was that, when it was originally released in the UK, the title was rather curiously changed to ‘Dimension Four’. Yes, it really is that exciting, folks!